Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Matters, Maggie De Block, announced, on 18 February, that Belgium will temporarily suspend transfers of asylum seekers, in accordance with the Dublin Regulation, to Bulgaria. This decision is based on a UNHCR report criticising Bulgaria’s deficient reception system for asylum seekers.
UNHCR has repeatedly criticised the systemic deficiencies of Bulgaria’s asylum system such as the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers arriving on the territory as well as the dreadful reception conditions which amount to inhumane and degrading treatment – e.g. lack of access to food and medical care in overcrowded reception centres. UNHCR (as well as ECRE) therefore called upon EU Member States to temporarily suspend any Dublin transfers to Bulgaria, in accordance with jurisprudence of both the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights.
Ms De Block compared the asylum situation in Bulgaria to that in Greece and announced that the Belgian Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons and FEDASIL (the Federal Reception Agency) have offered to send a support mission to Bulgaria.
Despite the fact that transfers from Belgium to Bulgaria were in practice very rare, Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen mentioned that this decision to temporarily suspend transfers to Bulgaria will prevent the return of the family of a Syrian refugee resident in Belgium, as his family had entered the EU via Bulgaria.
- Asylum Information Database, Country Report – Bulgaria – Reception Conditions.
- Asylum Information Database, Country Report – Belgium – Dublin.
- AIDA news, Denmark suspends returns of asylum seekers to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation, 07 February 2014.
- AIDA news, UNHCR: all transfers to Bulgaria should be halted due to a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment, 03 January 2014.